Microalgae and sustainable aquaculture – the way forward

Aquaculture pond
Example of aquaculture pond

One of the main goals of commercial fish farming (aquaculture) is to develop a sustainable source of feed that no longer relies on the use of fish meal and fish oil.  I have looked at this in an earlier blog.

Much of the current research on using microalgae (which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, vitamins and minerals) as a fish feed is being carried out in Norway. A consortium consisting of the University of Bergen, the Norwegian Research Centre (NORCE), and the commercial company CO2Bio AS has been particularly active. 

The group has set up a pilot plant that is co-located at the Technology Centre Mongstad, near Bergen. The Centre is the world’s largest facility for testing and improving CO2 capture as part of the Centre’s work on countering climate change. The Centre is a joint venture between the Norwegian State, Equinor (formally Statoil), Total, and Shell. It is the Equinor refinery at Mongstad that provides the CO2 used to grow the microalgae.

Mongstad Technology Centre
Mongstad Technology Centre

The pilot plant is called the National AlgaePilot Mongstad (NAM) and has been operational since 2017. The facility has been funded by the University of Bergen, the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget), the Fisheries and Aquaculture Industry Research Fund, Hordland County Municipality, and the Nordhordland Region Council.

Mongstad microalgae research facility
Mongstad  microalgae research facility

The facility consists of a 200 m2 greenhouse that contains microalgae photobioreactors, and an operation building that includes a laboratory and equipment to process the microalgae that are produced. 

The main activity will be to test and cultivate a range of microalgae that can take in CO2 from the refinery and produce high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. The work will also include steps to reduce capital and operational costs to make the aquaculture feed commercially viable for salmon farming. 

The microalgae produced can be used not just as fish feed but also as a feed for copepods (small crustaceans) and rotifers (microscopic aquatic animals) that are used as live feeds for fish larvae.

Copepod - Cyclops
Example of a copepod
Rotifer
Example of a rotifer

The photobioreactors are the core of the facility. They cultivate microalgae using the process of photosynthesis to convert solar energy into microalgal biomass. 

The photobioreactors are supplied by LGem b.v. based in the Netherlands.  LGem uses the DURAN borosilicate glass tubing produced by Schott to construct its photobioreactors.

LGem photobioreactor using Schott glass
LGem photobioreactor using Schott glass tubing

This is an excellent example of government, universities and commercial companies working together to develop new technologies and markets based on microalgae and to find a commercial use for a greenhouse gas. 

David Border

DBCC

Email: david.border@davidborder.co.uk 

Website – David Border Consultancy:  https://www.davidborder.co.uk 

Website – Visualize Climate Change (Part of DBCC):  https://www.visualize-climate-change.com 

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidborderdbcc